A unique blend of natural history and crime drama, Shell Games by Craig Welch is a riveting tale of rogues, scoundrels, and the hunt for nature’s bounty in the tradition of The Orchid Thief. A stranger-than-fiction true story centered around a larger-than-life character who pursued a larger-than-life clam—the Geoduck—and then led wildlife police on a two-year-long chase, Shell Games is enthralling and remarkable from page one on.
In this deep-sea true-crime narrative, journalist Welch entertains and horrifies with tales of poachers and the law enforcement officers devoted to chasing them down. Stories range across the wildlife spectrum, from bears killed for their gallbladders (used to treat cancers, burns, and liver and stomach problems ) to Moonies harvesting baby leopard sharks off California s Catalina Island for pet shops. The book focuses on fisheries in the Pacific Northwest and features the oversize, ugly, and still somehow charming geoduck clam, which resembles nothing more than a giant penis, and an equally larger-than-life Native American fisherman and artist, Doug Tobin, a charmer, a prankster, a benefactor, and a bully. Tobin, originally enlisted by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife detectives, as an informant to help catch geoduck poachers, ends up stealing millions of dollars worth of geoduck and Dungeness crab, the ecological consequences of which will take decades to evaluate. Welch s vivid depictions and broad coverage of this global, ecologically disastrous illegal trafficking provide a sympathetic glimpse into the dedication and frustration of wildlife crime fighters. \n
What a crazy story. Great read.